The Utah Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution for triple-killer James Louis Holland, who was scheduled to die April 10 for the 1986 murder of a Florida man.
The stay was issued Tuesday under unusual circumstances that had prosecutors seeking to stop an execution they ultimately want carried out.Holland, 51, has said that he wants to die for the shooting death of 70-year-old Sam Patt, whom he met at an Idaho rest stop on July 4, 1986. Patt's body was found near Echo Junction alongside I-84 about two weeks later.
He pleaded guilty to the killing and was sentenced to die. However, the Utah Supreme Court, in its mandatory review of the case, ruled 3rd District Judge Homer F. Wilkinson erred in his sentencing and remanded Holland's case back for a new sentence.
Last month, Wilkinson again imposed the death penalty, which raised the question about whether the case again needed to be reviewed by the Utah Supreme Court.
The attorney general's office believes it does, regardless of Holland's death wish, and Tuesday filed a notice of appeal and obtained a stay of execution from Chief Justice Gordon Hall.
"I'm in a very strange position," said Assistant Utah Attorney General Sandra Sjogren. "We do want the execution to go forward, yet we believe the law requires the justices take another look at it."
Elliot Levine, Holland's defense attorney, has said his client has placed him in an awkward position as well. In representing his client's wishes, he has run afoul of Supreme Court procedures mandating a review of death penalty cases.Levine did not return telephone messages left at his office.
Holland, who has spent most of his life in prison, has asked that no appeals be filed. "I feel like it's a waste of time and money," he said during a recent court appearance.
Holland has murdered two other men, both of whom he met on the same date - Independence Day - at the Juniper Rest Stop in Oneida County, Idaho.
He had met Ted Christiansen, 47, on July 4, 1964. Christiansen's body was found 19 days later near Ames, Iowa.
Holland confessed to that killing and served 20 years of a 60-year prison term.
Six months after his parole, he met Patt at the same rest stop on Independence Day 1986. He said he killed Patt after he ordered him out of his car in northern Utah.
He was arrested following a string of robberies in Florida, where he told police of the July 4, 1987 murder of Karl Behm of Highland Heights, Ohio. He pleaded guilty in Idaho and was sentenced to life in prison.